Friday, November 29, 2013

India shocked by high-profile rape case

File photo of Tarun Tejpal (Pic:
MUMBAI (AA) – Allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment that have been leveled against a prominent media personality and judicial official respectively have sent shockwaves across India.
Media baron Tarun Tejpal, founder and editor-in-chief of Tehelka, an investigative weekly magazine, has been accused of sexually molesting a 28-year old colleague in the elevator of a posh hotel in the coastal state of Goa.
The alleged incident took place during a high-profile media event organized by the magazine from November 8 to 10. Hollywood actor Robert De Niro and Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan both attended the event.
Tejpal has been slapped with a rape charge and accused of "outraging the modesty of a woman" by Goa police. The alleged victim didn't register any complaint with the Goa police, but police nevertheless filed an FIR (First Information Report) based on an email complaint sent by the victim to Tehelka Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury.
Tejpal, 50, is an internationally-acclaimed writer and one of the country's best known journalists, considered by many to be the pioneer of investigative journalism in India.
Goa police are relying on an alleged apology that Tejpal emailed to the woman journalist in which he allegedly confessed to his misdeeds.
"It wrenches me beyond describing, therefore, to accept that I have violated that longstanding relationship of trust and respect between us and I apologize unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgment that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on 7 November and 8 November 2013, despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me," Tejpal allegedly wrote in the email.
Later, however, Tejpal changed his mind, describing the alleged incident as "light-hearted bantering" – a comment that met with severe criticism from feminists and Indian rights groups.
Tejpal has been granted interim bail until Saturday morning by a judge in Goa, where his anticipatory bail plea is being heard in a court in Panaji city. The court will continue to hear the bail plea on Saturday when it will possibly issue a ruling.
During Friday's bail hearing, the judge seemed to reject arguments put forward by Tejpal's lawyers. At one point, he came down hard on the defense counsels when they revealed the name of the alleged victim. Under Indian law, the name of a rape victim should not be revealed.
"Are you trying to malign her? We aren't playing to the gallery. This is not a minor mistake," the judge said, reprimanding the lawyers.
He did not appear impressed by the argument that the case was politically-motivated, engineered by the ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP party in Goa state.
In the recent past, Tejpal has published a number of exposes of the BJP, revealing corruption within the party.
The bail plea was filed by Tejpal's lawyers on Friday morning after a non-bailable warrant was issued against him by the Goa police for failing to show up for questioning by 3pm Thursday.
The alleged victim, meanwhile, has issued a statement to the media in which she asserted that what Tejpal did to her fell within the legal definition of "rape."
"I'm fighting to preserve nothing except for my integrity and my right to assert that my body is my own and not the plaything of my employer," she said.
She also dismissed allegations that her accusation was part of a political conspiracy.
"I'm deeply concerned and very disturbed by insinuations that my complaint is part of a pre-election political conspiracy," she said.
A number of senior journalists at Tehelka magazine, meanwhile, resigned in the aftermath of the sex scandal that has shocked the nation.
Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury, who first received the victim's email complaint, also resigned on Thursday morning after allegations that she had tried to "cover up" the sexual assault and had "failed" to act on the woman journalist's complaint.
In another case, the country's Supreme Court revealed that retired Supreme Court judge AK Ganguly was facing allegations of sexual harassment. 
Ganguly, accused of sexually harassing a law intern, has denied the charges, saying he had been "shocked and shattered" by the allegations. He currently serves as chairman of the West Bengal Human Rights Commission.
"I deny all the charges," Ganguly told English-language news channel IBNLive.
"She came to my house on a number of occasions. The intern is like a child to me. The intern has worked with me, but she has never raised the issue with me," he said.
The woman lawyer had earlier written a blog post in which she accused a former Supreme Court judge of sexually harassing her while she interned with him in 2012, prompting the court to form a committee to investigate the claims.
Last week, the intern appeared before the committee to record her statement, requesting that the committee maintain the confidentiality of her testimony. 
The woman lawyer had written in her blog: "In Delhi at that time, interning during the winter vacations of my final year in the University, I dodged police barricades and fatigue to go to the assistance of a highly reputed, recently retired Supreme Court judge whom I was working under during my penultimate semester."
"For my supposed diligence, I was rewarded with sexual assault (not physically injurious, but nevertheless violating) from a man old enough to be my grandfather," she alleged.

The inquiry into Justice Ganguly began only days before Tejpal was accused of rape. The two cases have sparked a national debate over men in positions of power violating women in the workplace.
Anadolu Agency, November 29, 2013

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